Posts Tagged ‘Shakespeare’

Sunday Afternoon in the Studio

December 20, 2015

imageWe tend now to regard genius as the creative capacity, as opposed to talent.  The Victorian historian Froude observed that genius “is a spring in which there is always more behind than flows from it.” 

Harold Bloom, Genius

With the sinus infection subsiding slowly, I found myself working today with more energy than the past several.  While the natural light was available (though the day remained somewhat dim and overcast) I worked on a watercolor next to my windows to the north, enjoying the dynamics of the pigments playing in the daylight.  I’m working hard on a fly fishing composition, and finding myself trying a number of techniques I haven’t tried before.  It’s coming slowly, but I’m happy with the results so far.  I should have it wrapped up by tomorrow or Tuesday.

Once the daylight ended, I cozied in front of the fireplace with Shakespeare, finishing “Hamlet” with a deep-seated sense of satisfaction.  Reading Harold Bloom since late summer has led me back to a number of sources I hadn’t consulted for years, though I never ceased to praise the authors (wasn’t it Twain who said a classic is a book that everyone praises but no one reads?), particularly Shakespeare and Cervantes.  I believe my reason for feeling such a deep satisfaction from reading Shakespeare stems from the reality that I am slow and clumsy in understanding his lines, but when I linger and unpack the meaning, I always acknowledge that it was worth the effort.  There is real power and beauty in his language, and the psychology of his characters leaves me breathless.  Hamlet in particular sobered me in tonight’s reading.


Two days into my holiday vacation finds me a much happier man (aside from this wretched sinus condition).

Thanks for reading.



Sentries in a Quiet Space

April 3, 2015
Abandoned Gas Station,  Revisited

Abandoned Gas Station,

Today we do not know how much we owe to Shakespeare. His work is no longer confined in his writings. All literature has been influenced by him. Life is permeated with the thoughts of Plato, with the thoughts of all great artists who have lived. If you are to make great art it will be because you have become a deep thinker.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

I could not have scripted a better Good Friday, rising at daylight and getting many domestic, business and bookkeeping chores accomplished as well as finding some quality time to focus on this watercolor with no classes to teach or meetings to make. As the hours stretch deeper into the night, I am now filled with a deep sense of satisfaction, sipping my coffee, listening to Mozart’s Symphony 34, and poring over this watercolor to discern what to pursue in the morning when the natural light returns. This is one of those times I’m choosing not to paint under house lights. The northern lights bathing this watercolor over the past week have given me a different perspective of the dynamics of watercolor on paper.

The Henri quote above resonates with me. Throughout my schooling, I was a plodder when it came to thinking, often considering myself inferior to my peers. None of it came easily for me. By the time I was finishing my Bachelor’s degree, I had acquired an unquenchable curiosity and could not seem to learn fast enough. None of that has changed over time. For a number of years, I have mused over developing some kind of theory, a personal aesthetic to guide my art endeavors. I have created and organized a myriad of files on art theory, mingled with my own essays on the subject, and can honestly say I feel no closer to figuring it out than I did five years ago. I just love to watercolor, and when I’m focused on a subject, eveything else seems to melt away, most of all time. And as I paint, ideas emerge from the gloom and comingle with others. I love thinking over things I have read in philosophy, theology, literature and art history. And I love the feel of my mind moving through those subjects unbridled as the brush continues to work its way over the surface of the painting. Sometimes I fantasize that the two sides are playing off of each other.

I am referring to his pair of abandoned gas pumps as “sentries” because I see a certain personality, or demeanor in their posturing. And I’m trying to find a way to make a pleasing complementary color scheme with the green foliage behind the red staging area. I’m still not sure if I’m going to keep the Texaco oil can that I inserted on a whim in the window (I still laugh as I recall N. C. Wyeth taking Andrew’s brush and scrubbing out an unnecessary object in his painting under construction, brusquely saying: “You don’t need that.”). And there are still matters to figure out with the shadows and contrasts, as well as the balance of warm and cool colors. All kinds of technical details crowd into my consciousness, but I feel that in the end all that is going to matter is whether or not this painting finds a way to resonate with an audience, beginning with me. These are good things to ponder, and I’m glad I still have a couple of days in front of me this weekend.

Thanks for reading. And speaking of such, I haven’t gotten to read all day. I shall attempt that now.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Emptying It All Out

July 7, 2014
Small Shakespeare Drawing and Collage

Small Shakespeare Drawing and Collage

Already he was beginning to get that old familiar feeling of being emptied out each day, yet ready to return to his task with renewed energy every morning.

Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story, by Carlos Baker

This Monday morning was an excellent return to the good feelings I have known before.  With only two full days remaining to complete the first semester of summer school, the averages solid enough that no student fears failing, and the curriculum of English literature now anchored firmly in the Puritan and Enlightenment eras of the 17th-18th centuries, my head was spinning with ideas  long before I left the house before first light this morning.  I knew before the first student entered the room that there would be good moments to share with Shakespeare, Milton, Bunyan and Pepys.  As students worked on their vocabulary sheets, I dashed off this small collage of Shakespeare and wrote in my journal.

The better days of my life are given to the description of Hemingway above–waking to a mind surging with ideas, and then spending the day stitching up as many of them as possible before turning out the light at the end of the night.

There was never any more inception than there is now,

Nor any more youth or age than there is now,

And will never be any more perfection than there is now,

Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now.

Urge and urge and urge,

Always the procreant urge of the world.

Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”

I love the diversity of this day, and that there are still quite a number of hours left before time to sleep.  I have a pair of small watercolors awaiting my attention and several good books open in my reading chair, and an open journal at my writing desk.  The muses are stirring.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.




Out of the Void

January 27, 2014
Resuming work on the Fort Worth Flatiron

Resuming work on the Fort Worth Flatiron

And, as imagination bodies forth

The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen

Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing

A local habitation and a name.


Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

We are currently reading Shakespeare in my English II classes.  Throughout this day, his work has lingered and rendered no small measure of sweetness to my soul.  With every stroke of his pen, he called forth worlds that fed the imaginations of hungry audiences.  And so I have also wished to wield a brush, and shape worlds with my own series of strokes.  After all these years, I am still enchanted by the mystique of watercolor.  While working in the studio, as I did this afternoon, I love to watch worlds emerge, shimmering on the wet surface of the paper.  Perhaps the photographer in the dark room felt the same delight, watching the image form on the photo paper as it lay in the fluid.  As I poke around on a new painting, I feel genuine pleasure watching the developing composition respond to my pencil or brush.  Inch by inch, color by color, line by line, I feel a growing satisfaction watching the painting emerge.

I am seriously considering a change in the composition of this Fort Worth Flatiron.  It was going to be a 9 x 12″ vertical piece, with two additional stories developed below where I am working.  This afternoon, I lay a 10 x 8″ horizontal mat over it, and have just about decided I have gone far enough down, and may perhaps move to the right and finish out the cornice and upper story.  I like the horizontal look I saw this afternoon.  So . . . I’ll let this one rest a bit more, and decide later how exactly I want to finish it out.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Sunday Afternoon in the Studio, Digging Deeper into the Still Life

December 30, 2012
Chipping Away at the Still Life

Chipping Away at the Still Life

And as imagination bodies forth

The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen

Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing

A local habitation and a name.

William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

I have been spoiled by this long day of silence, choosing not even to turn on the TV/VCR in the Man Cave.   I finally got to rough up the surfaces of the skillet and the Barq’s Root Beer sign.  I am using the watercolor medium now for drawing just as much for painting–I love simulating textures of old, abandoned, abused objects.  This is what I always liked about the Andrew Wyeth drybrush paintings.  Between the Winsor & Newton pigments, my assortment of graphite pencils and the X-acto knife, I am finding all kinds of texturing varieties, and am having the time of my life.

I need to take a break, stretch my back, prepare a late lunch, and then hopefully return to the Cave later in the afternoon.  I have the notion to read, as I haven’t done any, aside from Thoreau’s Journal first thing this morning.  I laughingly recall the line from the film Amadeus, when Mozart is unable to make up his mind, choosing between three different powdered wigs: “They are all so beautiful!  I wish I had three heads!”  I often wish there were three of me.  I love to watercolor, and even wish I could simultaneously work on two or three paintings.  I also love to read and write in my journal.  Alas, I still know how to do only one thing at a time, but I cannot seem to focus my mind on that one thing at a time.

More later.  Thanks for reading.

Tonight Shakespeare Collides with Watercolor Activity

November 28, 2012

Cattle Drive at Fort Worth Stockyards

As I draw near the close of an exhausting week, I must confess that it has been harder to enter the studio.  A dear friend of mine recently fell, breaking a leg and wrist, and I have been distracted, trying to assist some of her family and close friends with basic tasks and visitation.  Today I spent the entire afternoon out of town, visiting in the hospital, and returned tonight to the daily school tasks.  I did manage to pull out this cattle drive watercolor and work on it for about an hour.  But frankly, my eyes are tired, and my discernment powers seem considerable compromised at this point.  I would hate to lower its quality at this late stage of the process, but a few misplaced strokes or the addition of colors that don’t work.  It’s really hard to focus on the rendering of the details of the horses and riders.  I think I’m going to put it on the easel and gaze at it from time to time, make some notes and hope for a stronger effort tomorrow.

As a first-time senior English teacher, I am encouraged by my students’ efforts today to give Shakespeare a chance.  They seemed to enjoy Act I of Macbeth, working quietly over the text, writing out answers to key questions and participating in dialogue.  So, I think I’ll relax in a comfortable chair here in my man cave tonight, with my Shakespeare volume open on my lap, a journal on my side table, and pore alternately over the bard’s text and my cattle drive painting, taking notes on both and hoping for a stronger work performance tomorrow.  I really want to wrap up this painting, earnestly hoping that by tomorrow or Friday I can call it a fait accompli.

Thanks for reading and for all the encouragement you’ve given lately, my dear friends.

A Restless Monday Evening in the Man Cave

November 26, 2012

Lucky Strike Watercolor in Progress

Sleeping Shih-tzus at my Feet

My word, what an evening this is shaping up to be!  I had to take a late-afternoon nap, because my cat woke me throughout last night, craving attention.  I returned to school from holiday today with one eye half-open, and tried very hard to navigate my students through Advanced Placement Art History (Romanesque architecture) and English IV (Shakespeare).  Now I sit in my man cave with a stack of Philosophy Journals to finish reading and evaluating and the need to prepare them for a roundtable dialogue in the morning on Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. 

At my feet are a pair of sleeping Shih-tzus.  They ought to be named Yin and Yang, if you are able to tell that they slumber against each other, and one is blonde, the other dark grey.  A cute, adorable pair they are.  They have spent most of this weekend with me, sleeping at my feet as I study or pursue watercolor in my garage Man Cave.

I am finding it extremely difficult to settle into tonight’s work, though I know that (thanks to the late nap) I will have many hours of quality time to pursue what I must.  And what I must do is finish these journals and dialogue, then get back to the Lucky Strike watercolor.  But, as so often happens about one hour after rising from sleep, my mind takes off.  I suffer like Moses, from the Saul Bellows novel Herzog, explaining his problem to his physician: “My thoughts are shooting out all over the place.”  Currently, I cannot stop thinking about Shakespeare and this compulsion I have to create a collage of his portrait and his works, to write in my journal, to continue reading in my own Thoreau Journal as well as Walden, and alas, I just re-read T. S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” and have so much I want to think through and write about that text.  And yes, I really REALLY want to return to painting tonight.  Funny–as my mind frantically and restlessly darts down all these corridors, I have Yanni’s “Out of Silence” cassette playing on my Man Cave stereo.  What a contrast!  His music so lilting, so serene, so aglow, and here I am, wanting to do a dozen things at once.  I laugh when I recall the scene from Amadeus when Mozart is trying on three different powdered wigs, and concludes that all of them are lovely, and “I wish I had three heads!”  Sometimes, I wish there were three or four or six of me sitting at this drafting table, pursuing all these interests that consume me at once.  I have been complimented from time to time by friends, students and associates who call me a “Renaissance Man.”  I cannot really own that.  I think of a Renaissance Man as multi-talented.  As for myself, I am multi-interested to the point of feeling that I have attention deficit disorder, and perhaps would have been diagnosed with that as  an elementary student, had there been such diagnosticians in the schools in my day.

O.K.  I just realized that I have not even prepared dinner yet.  I forgot (how pathetic is that?).  Perhaps a good meal will settle me down, even me out, and I will get to pursue an evening of bliss in the man cave, with my pair of Shih-tzus, cat, my paintings, my books, my journals and all the good things that keep me company this evening.

Thanks for reading.